Healthy breakfasts ‘help pupils do up to twice as well’ in assessments

The BBC is reporting a new study that suggests children who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to do well – up to twice as well – in end of primary school assessments than those who do not.

…The Cardiff University study asked 5,000 nine to 11-year-olds to list what they ate in 24 hours. 

The study involved more than 100 primary schools in Wales and built on research started 10 years ago.

It found eating unhealthy items such as sweets and crisps for breakfast, reported by one in five children, had no positive impact on how they performed in tests.

Pupils were asked to list all food and drink consumed over a period of just over 24 hours. 

Their results in Key Stage 2 teacher assessments were then followed up by researchers between six and 18 months later.

The odds of achieving an above average performance was up to twice as high for pupils who ate breakfast, compared with those who did not.

Alongside the number of healthy breakfast items, other dietary behaviours – including number of sweet and crisps, and fruit and vegetable portions consumed throughout the rest of the day – were all significantly and positively associated with educational performance.

Researchers claim the findings, published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, could have big implications for policymakers.

Lead author Hannah Littlecott, from Cardiff University, said the odds of achieving above average performance were up to twice as high for pupils who ate a healthy breakfast than for those who did not.

She said schools might see dedicating time towards improving health as an “unwelcome diversion” from teaching.

“Clearly, embedding health improvements into the core business of the school might also deliver educational improvements as well,” she said.

Co-author Dr Graham Moore said the data provided “robust evidence of a link between eating breakfast and doing well at school”. 

In Wales, most primary schools offer a free school breakfast funded by the Welsh government…

More at: Healthy breakfasts ‘help pupils do well’


Read or download the report in full:

[pdf-embedder url=””]


This sounds extremely convincing but there seems to be a major caveat in that the research does not establish whether this is a causal relationship or a correlation. In other words, are those being given a healthy breakfast the same children likely to do better in tests in the first place because of other factors (for example, because they have better educated parents)?

Likewise, it makes no attempt to assess whether changing the breakfast/diet of those currently doing less well would improve their performance in any way.

What do you think?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin every morning (around 7 am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link

Today's poll: Ahead of next week’s Spending Review, how do you feel about the likely impact on education?
Tory MPs could 'talk out' proposal to make first aid training compulsory in schools
Categories: Health, Primary, Research and Wales.


  1. bentleykarl

    SchoolsImprove Or is it more indicative that parents who care about the quality of nutrition are more likely to care about other things?

  2. EA_Holmes

    lennyvalentino bentleykarl SchoolsImprove I’ve seen some bad choices served up at breakfast clubs. Quality of nutrition counts.

  3. brighton118

    SchoolsImprove – Hmm not sure about this. I always had good breakfasts but always went to pieces in tests. Parental support is key as well.

  4. Liz_Sidwell

    SchoolsImprove healthy breakfasts important as are lunches esp for primary sch children. Energy, focus = btr learning BrightTribeUK

  5. EA_Holmes lennyvalentino bentleykarl SchoolsImprove ‘The provision of breakfast and after-school clubs is greatly appreciated by parents. However, the
    meals provided do not ensure that pupils have a consistently healthy and well-balanced diet.’  
    From Ofsted report for Langley Hall Primary School, one of the first free schools.
    I’ve never read any other comments on the quality of food in breakfast clubs in other Ofsted reports.  Should this be part of inspectors’ remit or should such provision be monitored by LAs?  I don’t know the answer but some independent body should consider the quality of food on offer.

  6. bentleykarl

    EA_Holmes lennyvalentino SchoolsImprove Is it something more than not caring, a lack of agency, the freedom/ability to change something?

  7. suejiggens

    SchoolsImprove that’s good to hear – the governors in our school make bacon sandwiches for the y6 pupils every morning of SATS week 🙂

  8. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Food gives school children energy revelation! One does wonder how many more of this kind of “research” will attract funding

Let us know what you think...